The elderly Houston couple responsible for the largest scam ever uncovered in a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' program meant to protect vulnerable veterans will be going to federal prison for 46 months after conspiring to carry out a $2.3 million ripoff of 49 disabled military men.
Houston lawyer Joe B. Phillips, 73, stood in federal court Wednesday to receive an identical punishment to that of his legal assistant and wife of four decades, Dorothy, who has claimed a casino gambling addiction first compelled her to siphon funds from veterans' bank accounts years before a VA audit finally detected the losses.
"I did not personally do it myself, but I accept responsibility because it happened in my office. It happened on my watch," Phillips told the court.
He asked to serve out his sentence in a cell near his 72-year-old spouse.
Government prosecutors unsuccessfully urged U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal to give a longer sentence to Joe Phillips, who was legally responsible for safeguarding disabled veterans' funds as a VA-approved fiduciary and as a guardian appointed by Texas probate judges. They pointed out that on Phillips' watch, 46 different fraudulent bank accounts were concocted to conceal long-term and ongoing thefts from veterans' accounts.
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Couple who scammed veterans are headed to prison